Is there life with Christ after high school?

Think that passionate teen who loves Jesus is immune from the world’s influence? Think again. When youth group “graduates” go off to college, high school is not the only thing they leave behind. As they start their freshman year, studies show that many Christian young people abandon their faith.

In Youth Worker Journal, a youth worker shares about one such student from her small group:

For the first few months after Nicole graduated from high school, we stayed in touch. But by that fall, she had stopped returning my calls. She had stopped coming to our church, claiming that the college ministry was boring…

Three years later, I ran into Nicole at a mall near our church. She wasn’t alone. She was pushing a stroller. After we hugged, she somewhat timidly introduced me to her nine-month-old son and told me she’d lost contact with her son’s father. When I asked her if she ever went to church, she said she wasn’t into that God stuff anymore…

We’d shared four years of life together. We’d talked about Jesus at church and at coffeehouses, talked about what it meant to follow him…

We all have our students who graduate from our youth ministries and seem to graduate from following God. We all have our students who walked the narrow path in high school but somehow made a U-turn and stumbled, or maybe even sprinted in the opposite direction.

Unless Christian young people are firmly grounded in their faith, college may be the starting point of a life away from God.

Current trends should leave parents and youth workers uneasy. According to various studies, between 69%-94% of Christian youth leave the church after entering college. And based on a UCLA study, 52% of college freshmen say they frequently attended a religious service before attending college, but by their junior year, that number is down to 29%.

If that isn’t enough, data uncovered by The Center for Youth and Family Ministry (CYFM) at Fuller Seminary offers troubling information for any concerned Christian adult. In 2004, CYFM sent a survey to 234 students who graduated from the same youth group. Out of the 69 who responded, 100% of them had consumed alcohol, 69% had been involved in a sexual encounter (oral sex, sexual intercourse, or hooking up), and 20% reported having 40 sexual encounters (with the same or multiple partners) in the last 12 months.

Obviously, something drastic is happening after students graduate from high school. Why these unsettling trends? Comments made in the CYFM survey help shed light on the situation.

Leaving home for the first time places a lot of stress on a young person. The most difficult aspect of transition that students described involved relationships, specifically the loss of friendships, loss of community, and not knowing how to make new friends. Second was being alone for the first time and facing the responsibilities of living away from home. Third, in spite of student’s desire for a spiritual community, they didn’t know how find and get plugged into a place where they felt welcomed and spiritually fed. Without a solid foundation in their relationship with God, these young adults don’t have much else to turn to.

A second glance at student’s responses shows that the three hardest parts of the transition can be prepared for. Just as in a hurricane, the storm itself cannot be stopped, but many steps can be taken to prepare, protect, and limit the damage done. The determining factor: The more mature students were in their faith, the less likely they were to get involved with alcohol and sexual encounters.

Tony Arnold, Director of Media Relations for Campus Crusade for Christ, said, “We need to be preparing our children for going out into the world, where everything they believe may in fact be challenged.”

For Katie, a Christian and college student, her first year away was a very real challenge. “I went to college feeling totally ready, excited to just get away and do something new and exciting, not realizing that I was entering into the most intense battle I’ve experienced yet in life. Spiritually, mentally, relationally…in every aspect…my freshman year was a battle.”

Fortunately, college does not have to be the end of students’ relationship with God. Students can still stand strong after the storm.

Take Action

As a parent, youth leader, senior pastor, or concerned adult, you can do more than send students off and hope that they will be alright. By preparing them for college, you are setting them up to win in their walk with God for the rest of their lives. Here are several things you can do: (Follow this link for the full article)

Read youth culture news, youth ministry articles, and join the fight for America’s young people at http://www.battlecry.com.

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